van der Merwe spins Titans into final
Titans 287 for 8 (Rudolph 79, Davids 67) beat Lions 276 (Vandiar 66, Symes 72, Tsolekile 55, van der Merwe 5-41) by 11 runs
Roelof van der Merwe, the hero of the Titans' victory in the first leg of the semi-final, starred with the ball in the second, taking five wickets to secure his team's berth in the MTN40 final with a 11-run victory against regional rivals, the Lions, at the Wanderers. The Lions, at 116 for 1 in the 13th over, were on track to chase 288 but a roller-coaster innings, containing dramatic collapse and nail-biting revival, ended their hopes of reaching the final.
Jonathan Vandiar, the Lions opener, appeared as though he had pressed pause on last week's innings - 130 in the first leg - and play on this week's. It didn't seem as though he had put his bat down between the two. Vandiar's fifty came in a frenetic over in which he hit, in succession, a four, two sixes and another four. Together with Alviro Petersen, he put on a rapid first-wicket partnership of 116 inside 13 overs.
The Titans' needed van der Merwe to halt the Lions. He removed Vandiar and Richard Cameron off successive balls. Four boundary-less overs followed, and then Neil McKenzie, desperate to rotate strike, attempted a quick single. Henry Davids pounced on the ball at extra cover and a direct hit had McKenzie short. Zander de Bruyn got a faint edge off Albie Morkel and van der Merwe claimed his third wicket when Petersen nicked to Heino Kuhn. The Lions lost five wickets for 24 runs.
Jean Symes and Thami Tsolekile accumulated quietly for the most part, except for an over from Faf du Plessis, whom they took for 19 runs to put the Lions back on course. van der Merwe returned for a third spell, though, and removed Tsolekile. With him went almost all of the Lions' chances of a great escape.
Symes' valiant half-century almost stole the win for the Lions and he brought them within 14 runs of the target before van der Merwe had him caught on the rope. With 13 runs needed off the final over, Friedel de Wet attempted a big heave and was caught on the cover boundary, ending the game.
During their innings, the Titans had looked set to score over 300 but ended on 287 for 8. Ethan O'Reilly had a forgettable outing that started with an over containing four wides, after which he watched Davids hit three boundaries in his second over. de Wet and Robbie Frylinck reined in the early charge from Davids and Gulam Bodi. Davids mistimed a pull shot to Richard Cameron at mid-on but the allrounder couldn't get to it.
The opening partnership was broken three balls later when Paul Harris took a diving catch at midwicket to dismiss Bodi. Davids wasn't put off by Bodi's departure and he and Jacques Rudolph surged on. Rudolph showed aggression, hitting two fours off the first three balls he faced and punishing Werner Coetsee on the leg side. It was up to Harris to break through again, this time with an arm ball which Davids missed.
The Titans were hoping for van der Merwe to repeat his Friday night heroics with the bat and sent him in at No. 3, ahead of the in-form du Plessis. The move didn't pay off, though, and in the 20th over a nervy van der Merwe top edged Harris, who raced to mid-on and attempted to take what should have been Coetsee's catch. Embarrassingly, both fielders failed to take it. Harris had his man in his next over, when van der Merwe skied the ball to Frylinck at backward square leg.
Rudolph's assault continued with a classy display of dominance against spin and he reached his half-century with a pull off Harris. But during a rare lapse of concentration, Rudolph fed the ball straight to his opposite number, Petersen, at deep extra cover. That sparked a mini collapse as du Plessis and Morkel were also dismissed in the next two overs.
The Lions did an impressive damage-control job and conceded only 40 between the 30th and 36th over. Former South Africa under-19 player Mangaliso Mosehle took the Titans closer to the 300 with three monstrous sixes in the final over.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent